Prior to the release of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in mid-December, the Virginia Health Department, along with local departments, made communicating the safety of the vaccine a top priority. As it turned out, only a small percentage of residents in Northern Virginia were hesitant to get the vaccine. In more rural areas of the state, the vaccine acceptance rate drops off.

Due to the shortage of vaccines, only 4.2 percent of Virginians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Feb. 17 as the nation enters the third month of the vaccination program.

In Virginia, the vaccine is currently available only to healthcare and front-line essential workers, residents of long-term care facilities, people age 65 and older, people age 16-64 with underlying medical conditions, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps.

Data released in late January through the U.S. Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey showed that about a third of respondents in some Southern, Midwest and Western states are not likely to get a vaccine when they are able. Forty percent of Louisiana residents said they would not likely get the vaccine when it becomes available to them, the highest rejection rate in the nation. Mississippi is next with 36 percent of its population unlikely to get the vaccine.

The Census Bureau's survey data shows that while a majority of white (55.5 percent) respondents said they would definitely get the vaccine, those rates were much lower for Black (29.6 percent) and Latino (47.3 percent) respondents, according to the bureau .

In its own survey, Facebook found that 87 percent of Asian Americans across the country said they would definitely or probably get the vaccine if it were offered today, while only 59 percent of African Americans said they would definitely or probably get the vaccine.

Those percentages parallel the percentages of people getting the vaccine in high priority groups. About two-thirds of Asian American health care workers have already received the COVID-19 vaccine. But only one-third of African American health care workers who are eligible have chosen to get the vaccine, according to Facebook data.

Vaccine acceptance also goes up with age. "The closer you get to that target 65 and over population, the more you tend to want a vaccine if one were made available," McGorman said.

Facebook's collection of COVID-19 data started last April as part of the company's efforts to fight the pandemic. At the time, Carnegie Mellon University approached Facebook to do a survey on COVID-19 symptoms and promote it on the social media platform.

Over the past 10 months, the original survey has grown to include questions on whether people are wearing masks, whether people are physical distancing, and whether people have been tested, along with their views on getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Facebook also is working to stop the spread of misinformation about vaccines. The social media company is removing vaccine misinformation posts that are widely debunked hoaxes. It is removing Facebook pages and groups that repeatedly share false COVID-19 conspiracy theories and other false vaccine claims.

"We expanded the type of information we're going to take down, which includes the widely debunked hoaxes, a list maintained by the World Health Organization," McGorman said. "But we acknowledge that there are still very real and very valid questions around the vaccine. Is it safe for children? Is it safe for pregnant women? Might I have an allergic reaction? All of those things are things that we would absolutely not only leave up but welcome people talking about on the platform if they have questions."